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Did you know…understanding the common side effects of high blood pressure medications can help you talk to your health care provider?

It is important that people who are being treated for high blood pressure (hypertension) take their medications exactly as directed by their health care provider. Many times people who are taking these medications experience side effects. Side effects can be uncomfortable and sometimes painful, which may make a person want to stop taking their medication. However, it is very important for people to continue to take their medicine on their normal schedule until they can talk to a health care provider and find a medication that doesn't have these side effects.

Here is a list of some of the common side effects for each type of high blood pressure (hypertension) medication. If you think you may be experiencing any of these side effects, talk with your health care provider or pharmacist to see what you can do to eliminate them.

Types of medications used to treat high blood pressure

 Common Side Effects
*Please talk to your health care provider and/or pharmacist for more details

Calcium channel blockers
used to treat people with angina and high blood pressure (hypertension)

Patients may experience the "first dose effect" the first time they take a calcium channel blocker. This means their heartbeat may slow down which can lead to low blood pressure, dizziness, and fainting. Usually these symptoms do not happen again even if a person continues to take the medication.

Other side effects include:

  • Fluid buildup in legs (also called peripheral edema). This feels like tightening of the skin.
  • Rapid heart rate - 100 or more beats per minute. You can count your heart rate by placing the tips of your index, second and third fingers on the palm side of your wrist, pressing lightly until you feel the blood pulsing beneath your fingers, and using a watch with a second hand to count the number of beats that you feel for 10 seconds. Multiply this number by six to get your heart rate (pulse) per minute.
  • Slow heart rate - under 60 beats per minute.
  • Constipation

 Diuretics
sometimes called "water pills" and used to treat people with high blood pressure (hypertension), edema and glaucoma.

A common side effect of all diuretics is increased urination

Specific diuretics also have their own side effects

Side effects of Thiazide include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of appetite
  • Itching all over your skin or in your throat
  • Headache
  • Stomach upset
  • During the first few days, some people may feel dizzy and lightheaded. This usually goes away on its own. To lessen this feeling, try rising slowly when you want to get up from a lying or sleeping position.

Side effects of Loop Diuretics include:

  • Going to the bathroom more often the first time you take this medication
  • Dizziness and/or feeling lightheaded after getting up from sitting or laying down
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • A decrease in magnesium in the blood

Side effects of Potassium Sparing Diuretics include:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Confusion
  • Weakness
  • Nervousness
  • Breathing problems

 Angiotensin-converting enzymes (ACE Inhibitors)
used to treat people with high blood pressure (hypertension)

Common side effects  include:

  • Cough
  • Low blood pressure which may lead to dizziness
  • Increased blood potassium levels as indicated by a blood test taken by a health care provider.
  • Drowsiness
  • Headache
  • Feeling weak
  • Getting a rash
  • Having an abnormal taste (metallic or salty) in your mouth

 Angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs)
used to treat people with high blood pressure (hypertension)

Common side effects  include:

  • Increased potassium levels in the blood as indicated by a blood test taken by a health care provider.
  • Low blood pressure which may lead to dizziness,
    headaches, and drowsiness
  • Diarrhea
  • Having an abnormal taste (metallic or salty) in your mouth
  • Getting a rash

 Alpha Blockers
used to treat people with high blood pressure (hypertension),benign prostatic hyperplasia and Raynauds disease.

Patients may experience the "first dose effect" when taking an Alpha Blocker for the first time. This means their heartbeat may slow down which can lead to low blood pressure, dizziness, and fainting. Usually these symptoms do not happen again.

Other side effects include:

  • Headaches
  • Pounding heartbeat
  • Nausea
  • Weakness
  • Weight gain

 Beta Blockers
Besides treating high blood pressure (hypertension), Beta blockers are often used to treat patients with heart failure.

Potential side effects of beta-blockers include:

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Problems with sexual performance and ability
  • Sleeping problems and drowsiness
  • Feeling more tired than usual
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Edema (swelling in ankles, feet, or legs)
  • Trouble breathing, especially asthma symptoms
  • Feeling sad
  • Weight gain

Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions before you start, stop, or change your use of any medication.

Did you know? is a series of health articles written by HHPC and approved by our Health Advisory Board.

1 Comment

My father has hypertension and the medications his physician prescribed him resulted in some side effects, such as headache, stomach upset, etc. Consequently he stopped taking the prescribed medications for those reasons. This article points out the importance of continuing the medications even when having side effects. I should definitely ask my dad to reconsider his decision to discontinue his hypertension pills. One interesting fact I read in one of the magazines is that blood pressure lowers as we sleep, and rises when we wake up, which was new information to me. Here is the link that discusses major risk factors of high blood pressure. It's very interesting --- take a look! My father has hypertension and the medications his physician prescribed him resulted in some side effects, such as headache, stomach upset, etc. Consequently he stopped taking the prescribed medications for those reasons. This article points out the importance of continuing the medications even when having side effects. I should definitely ask my dad to reconsider his decision to discontinue his hypertension pills. One interesting fact I read in one of the magazines is that blood pressure lowers as we sleep, and rises when we wake up, which was new information to me. Here is the link that discusses major risk factors of high blood pressure. It's very interesting --- take a look! http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/Hbp/HBP_WhatIs.html

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